ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has asked federal immigration officials here to investigate gangs in Alaska.
Robert Eddy, assistant special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Alaska, said he received a letter with instructions this week from his headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Eddy said he has been asked to gather information such as the names of high-profile gangs, their estimated foreign-born membership, organizational structure and criminal activities.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents nationwide have been asked to do the same, he said. In some places, such as Arizona, he said, highly organized gangs dealing in human smuggling threaten national security.
While gangs are believed to exist in Alaska, it's not the same as in Arizona, where there are violent street gangs, Eddy said.
"We don't see that sort of thing here," he said.
But he said law enforcement believes there are gangs in Alaska and gangs operating in the schools.
About 70 people, including Anchorage community leaders, teens, parents, business owners and officials, gathered last week to address a recent surge in youth-related gun violence in Anchorage. Four shootings on Nov. 25 alone left two men in their 20s wounded and an Air Force police officer, 22-year-old Crystal St. Auburn, dead.
Police have said they do not believe St. Auburn's death is gang-related, but they do think another homicide last month, that of 16-year-old Ann Saephan on Nov. 8, involved gangs. No arrests have been made in either of the slayings.
Several people claimed during the gathering last week that gangs exist in Anchorage. U.S. Attorney for Alaska Tim Burgess told the audience about one gang, the Good Boys Trece Surenos, or "GTS" gang, which was dismantled in Anchorage in 2001 after a joint investigation by Anchorage police and the FBI and the successful prosecution of several gang members in state and federal court.
Federal authorities say gang members were required to commit multiple armed robberies to show their commitment and loyalty.
Eddy said he plans to meet with city, state and federal officials to get a picture of gang activity in Alaska. He hopes to finish the report in the next few days, he said.